With so much money heading toward local governments, now is the time for property tax relief.
Hello, I am Senator Matt Pouliot of Augusta.
With increased revenue sharing from the state and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money heading into Maine in the form of the American Rescue Plan, towns and cities have an unusual opportunity to deliver real property tax relief while pushing along economic growth.
Municipalities in Maine will receive more than $250 million from the federal government and another $182 million in revenue sharing from state government. From Portland’s allotment of $46 million to the $2.1 million coming to Augusta, to the $500,000 that Vassalboro will receive every city and town in Maine will receive a one-time federal bonus on top of more dollars in revenue sharing from the state.
In addition, for public schools across Maine which have already had opportunities this year for new funding from various federal programs, the new budget includes an additional $183 million from the state in the General Purpose Aid for Local Schools.
As if all of these hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending are not enough, the final budget surplus for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 was nearly $1.3 billion.
What all of this means is that state government has never had so much money and it has never spent so much money, either. The problem with this is that the one-time federal money will not be here next year, but the nearly 200 new state employees that have been added will still need to be paid, and the new state agencies that were created will still need funding.
Over the last year, mountains of federal cash flooding into the pockets of Mainers have driven our economy via spending. This has increased revenues to state government in the form of sales and income taxes.
To keep our economy growing, local governments must focus on putting more money into the pockets of their property owners by returning money to them in the form of lower property taxes.
Thanks to this federal largesse, state and local governments have far more money than they need. When this happens, the most sound fiscal path for government to take is to give the extra money back to the taxpayers and help stimulate continued economic growth.
Now is not the time to add new staff or go looking for those costly new programs to add to the expense of government. Instead, local governments should find ways to deliver real, lasting property tax relief to their citizens.
At the same time, state government should set an example by not looking for that shiny new object to spend money on and instead to look for ways to reduce the future cost of government. By leaving more money in the pockets of taxpayers, we have an opportunity to extend the current economic growth and avoid a budget crisis in six months when the federal money has run out.
Again, I am Senator Matt Pouliot of Augusta. Have a great weekend.